Taking it to the TechBank
Young entrepreneurs buy used devices and make millions.
From the pages of In Business magazine.
There is real money in reselling — just ask the young proprietors of TechBank, which purchases gently used technology such as mobile phones, laptops, or tablets in exchange for cash. Now, thanks to a recently opened retail location downtown, the public can also purchase those items at reduced prices.
Three young partners started Techbank in 2013 with each putting a little skin in the game until a family member supported them with a “nice business loan.” The company also operates in Minnesota where two of the company’s co-owners, Austin White-Pentony and Aklilu Dimore, are nearing their college graduations.
The oldest co-owner, 29-year-old Tony Grisham, a Burlington, Wis. native, handles the Madison market. Grisham started seeing potential in the resale market while employed at a screen protector business that was conveniently located in a kiosk just outside the Apple Store at West Towne Mall.
Now, TechBank employs 15 including seven workers in Madison. It has kiosks at Madison’s East and West Towne Malls plus a new retail location downtown.
The company will buy any brand of technology but iPhones dominate the market. It will purchase Macs, laptops, iPads, iPods, and tablets typically younger than five-years-old. “We don’t just buy broken stuff and we don’t just buy Apple products. We buy everything,” Grisham says. TechBank does not repair devices.
For people who want to unload a device, no paperwork is required. Customers walk up to any of the locations with a smartphone or computer and walk away with cash. Claiming it pays better than pawnshops, online sites, or other trade-in businesses, TechBank has paid $1,000 for a used computer, depending on its condition. Most devices are sold to wholesalers or other online resources; some are recycled. “The median is probably about $200 for an iPhone 5 and better,” Grisham says.
For security reasons, the company is required to take photos of the seller, their photo ID, and the device they’re selling. That information gets entered into the company’s point-of-sale system that also integrates with an online site used by the police department to track stolen items. In Madison, police have 10 days to check records in search of stolen items.
“Early on, we saw some bad technology come in but now only about 1% of the product we buy is bad,” Grisham notes. “If that happens, the police will come and get the device, investigate it, and then it’s our responsibility to file for a return of the device. We do have insurance for those cases.
“The majority of the people know now that it’s not a good idea to sell bad things to us.”
Of the three Madison locations, Grisham says the TechBank store on Frances Street offers the greatest opportunity. “In the mall, kiosks are limited to what they can do because of other competition. Plus, at the mall we can only purchase devices.”
By contrast, TechBank’s downtown store also sells certified-used devices at significantly discounted rates. A used iPhone 4 in good condition, for example, might retail for $55, while an iPhone 6S, depending on its condition and how close manufacturers are to a new release date, can sell for about $500.
Since its launch, TechBank has bought more than 20,000 devices between its Wisconsin and Minnesota locations, including nearly 12,000 in 2015 alone. In each of the last two years the company recorded $2 million in sales; this year’s goal is set at $3 million. “I think the reason we’re doing well is because we’re innovative and we’re competitive. I like how we built in Madison,” Grisham states. “We have a good group of guys and we’re motivated.
“Right now the market looks very promising for the future.”
409 N. Frances St.
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 572-8043 | techbankusa.com
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